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N849SP accident description

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Tail numberN849SP
Accident dateDecember 27, 2004
Aircraft typeCessna 172S
LocationRoswell, NM
Near 33.379723 N, -104.757778 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On December 27, 2004, at 1821 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172S, N849SP, departed controlled flight and impacted on a highway, 12 miles west of Roswell, New Mexico. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted on a local instrument flight rules flight plan under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot, the sole occupant on board the airplane was fatally injured. The flight originated at the Roswell Industrial Air Center (ROW) at 1736.

Several witnesses in vehicles driving westbound on the highway stated they saw the airplane in the air traveling northwest at approximately 2,500 feet above the ground. One witness stated the airplane "suddenly started downward at a steep angle and crashed." Another witness said it took only a few seconds from the time the airplane started downward until it impacted on the highway. A third witness said he saw "a green and red light coming down at a high angle and very fast," and he "heard [a] loud noise, not [an] explosion." The witness said he then went through the debris across the highway and smelled fuel.

At 1735:04, the pilot received an instrument clearance from the Roswell Air Traffic Control Tower. The pilot took off on runway 17 at ROW at 1736:36.

Radar and communication information confirmed the airplane climbed to approximately 6,500 feet and received radar vectors that took the airplane northeast of ROW and then inbound for an ILS approach to runway 21. At 1745:49, the pilot was cleared for the ILS approach. At 1755:37, the pilot reported he was on climb out from the approach. Roswell Approach Control inquired of the pilot what he wanted to do. The pilot told the controller he wanted to do another ILS approach and then do the "full procedure turn, VOR Bravo [to a] full stop [landing] ..." The pilot received radar vectors that took him northeast of the airport and then inbound on an intercept heading for the ILS approach. At 1803:20 the pilot was cleared for the second ILS approach to runway 21. At 1813:40, the pilot reported he was on climb out from the second ILS approach. Roswell approach control cleared the pilot direct to the CHISUM VOR (CME). Radar confirmed the pilot climbing to approximately 5,900 feet and making a right turn to direct to the CME. At 1813:55, the controller told the pilot, "... reaching CHISUM, you're cleared for the approach, when able, say next request." The pilot responded, "Roger, this'll be a full stop ..." The controller replied, "Roger that." This was the last radio transmission exchange made by the pilot.

At 1821:06, radar contact with the airplane was lost. At the time contact was lost, the airplane was approximately 12 nautical miles west-northwest of CME at 5,800 feet on a northerly heading and airspeed of 132 knots.

At 1822:01, Roswell Approach Control attempted to contact the airplane. There was no reply. The controller made 2 additional attempts to contact the airplane with no response, and then contacted the tower and informed them. The tower controller responded, "... I don't see any lights out there but I'll watch for him."


The pilot, age 21, held a private pilot certificate with single-engine land and instrument airplane ratings. According to his father, the pilot was working on a commercial pilot certificate. The pilot was approximately 3 hours short of having the flying time for the certificate. The pilot's personal logbook showed an endorsement for the commercial pilot check flight, dated December 22, 2004.

The pilot held a first class medical, dated February 25, 2002. The medical certificate cited no limitations.

According to his personal logbook, as of the last entry dated December 26, 2004, the pilot had 239.2 total flying hours. All of this time was in single-engine airplanes. Of that time, 91.9 hours was in the make and model of the accident airplane. Approximately 48.8 hours were flown in the 90 days preceding the accident. Of that time, 27.0 hours was in the make and model of the accident airplane.

The logbook showed the pilot completed his instrument rating on October 19, 2004. The pilot had 79.1 hours of simulated instrument time, 2.8 hours of actual instrument time, and 6.9 hours of night time.

The logbook showed the pilot had completed a flight review on May 24, 2004.


The airplane, serial number 172S-8757, was owned and operated by Great Southwest Aviation, Incorporated, and was based at ROW. The airplane was used as a rental aircraft and for pilot training.

According to the airframe logbook, the airplane underwent an annual inspection on April 3, 2004. The airplane underwent repairs at Greeley, Colorado, in December 2004. An entry, dated December 6, 2004, showed the engine was re-installed and checked. The airframe time logged was 1,644.9 hours. The tachometer time logged was 1,327.3 hours. The airplane underwent a 100-hour inspection on December 21, 2004. At the 100-hour inspection, the tachometer time recorder was 1,350.6 hours.

The airplane's tachometer and the hour meter were destroyed at the accident.


At 1753, the routine aviation weather report (METAR) for Roswell Industrial Air Center (ROW), Roswell, New Mexico, 281 degrees at 12.6 nautical miles from the accident site was clear skies, 10 miles visibility, calm winds, temperature 39 degrees Fahrenheit (F), dew point 31 degrees F, and altimeter 30.19 inches.

At the time of the accident it was night. The light conditions were dark.


The National Transportation Safety Board's on-scene investigation began on December 28, 2004, at 1300.

The accident scene was located on the westbound lanes of U. S. Highway 70, 1/4 mile east of mile marker 318. The first point of impact was at 33 degrees, 22.779 minutes north latitude, and 104 degrees, 45.465 minutes west longitude.

The accident site began with a 4 foot, 7 inch wide, by 4 foot 2 inch long crater located at the south shoulder of the westbound lanes of the road. The crater was 1 foot deep at the center. Within the crater was the airplane's propeller, the crankshaft flange, portions of the engine cowling, pieces of the engine, and parts from the nose gear strut. Immediately to the east of the crater were the right side cabin door and numerous broken pieces of clear Plexiglas.

Airplane debris fanned outward southwest to west to north-northwest from the crater in a 105 degree arc for approximately 246 feet. Within this debris field were broken pieces of fiberglass from the left wingtip and left wheel pant, engine pieces, broken fuel lines, broken oil lines, pieces from the engine mount, pieces from the engine, pieces of wing skin and wing ribs, several radios, pieces from the instrument panel, pieces of cabin interior, the top vacuum pump, both magnetos, and charts and approach plates.

The majority of the airplane wreckage ran along a 330 degree magnetic heading. Approximately 13 feet north-northwest of the crater was the engine. The engine rested inverted on the road. The front portion of the crankcase was broken aft. The accessories were broken off. Just east of the engine were the fuel pump and part of the nose wheel strut. To the north-northwest of the engine were strewn electrical wiring, pieces of fuel lines, and pieces of the engine intake and exhaust manifolds.

Approximately 35 feet north-northwest of the crater were the engine oil pan, pieces of the wheel pants, and pieces of cabin interior.

Approximately 50 feet north-northwest of the crater was the airplane's cabin and part of the aft fuselage. The cabin section was upright and oriented on a 080 degree magnetic heading. The cabin floor was bent upward aft of the rear seats. The doors were broken out. The cabin walls and windows were broken aft and fragmented. The front seats were crushed forward and down. The control yokes and rudder pedals were crushed and broken aft. The instrument panel was broken aft. The instruments and radios were broken out. The main landing gear struts were bent aft and downward. The wheels and brakes were broken off. The aft fuselage was broken open and crushed downward.

Due west of the cabin section was the airplane's empennage. The empennage was oriented on a 270 degree magnetic heading and rested on the leading edges of the horizontal stabilizers. The empennage was broken and crushed aft at fuselage station (FS) 205.81. It remained attached to the cabin section by the rudder cables. The left horizontal stabilizer was bent forward approximately 33 degrees at the root. The leading edge was crushed aft across the entire span. The left elevator was bent upward and twisted forward. The right horizontal stabilizer and right elevator were bent forward 30 degrees at the root and twisted downward approximately 80 degrees. Flight control continuity was established from the controls to the elevators. The vertical stabilizer was crushed aft at the leading edge. The top of the vertical stabilizer was broken aft. The rudder was mostly intact. The top of the rudder and the rudder counterweight were broken aft. Flight control continuity was established from the controls to the rudder.

Approximately 8 feet west of the empennage was an 8 foot long section of the right wing. The section was crushed and broken aft.

Approximately 36 feet north-northwest of the empennage, resting along and on top of a barbed-wire fence, was the airplane's left and right wings, the cabin ceiling, and part of the aft fuselage.

A 9-foot long section of the right outboard wing and the carry through spar rested approximately 6 feet from the fence. It was crushed and broken aft. The wing cuff and tie-down eyelet for the right wing strut was present. The wing strut was broken out at the wing mounting bolts.

The remainder of the right wing with the right wing flap and aileron were located on the north side of the fence. The remainder of the wing was broken open and crushed aft. The right wing fuel tank was broken upward and aft. The top portion of the fuel tank and fuel tank filler neck and cap were located 18 feet east of the right wing. The right flap was bent upward and crushed aft. The flap jackscrew indicated the flaps were in the up position. The right aileron was bent upward, twisted forward and broken aft. Flight control continuity from the controls to the right aileron was confirmed. The right wing tip was broken aft longitudinally at the rivet line and fragmented. The right wing strut was broken out from the wing and fuselage mounts. It was rested next to the right wing along the south side of the fence.

The left wing and cabin ceiling rested on top of the fence and along the south side of the fence. The left wing was crushed aft from the leading edge to the rear spar across the entire span. The left fuel tank was broken open and crushed aft. The top portion of the fuel tank with the tank filler neck and cap was located next to the left wing on the north side of the fence. The left flap was bent downward at mid span. The left aileron was crushed downward. Flight control continuity to the left aileron was confirmed. The left wing tip was broken aft longitudinally along the rivet line and fragmented.

The cabin ceiling was attached to the left wing. It was oriented on a west-northwesterly heading. The cabin ceiling was bent and broken aft and crushed downward. The windscreen was broken out and fragmented. The rear cabin side and rear windows were broken out and fragmented. A portion of the aft fuselage and baggage compartment was located immediately north of the right wing. This section was crushed and aft and twisted clockwise.

A second debris field extended northwest from the wings and fence for an additional 80 feet. Within the debris field were pieces of the wings, pieces of cabin interior walls and insulation, pieces of clear Plexiglas, The engine starter generator, radios, pieces of the direct gyro. The attitude indicator, the rudder counterweight, the rear position light, the radio antennae, approach chart pages, and personal effects. At the farthest extent of the debris field was the airplane's nose wheel tire and fork.

Additional airplane pieces located west of the main wreckage were the left side cabin door, which was 120 feet west of the wings and approximately 30 feet north of the fence, a mangled piece of window frame, resting on the fence approximately 40 feet west of the wings, and the baggage compartment door, located on the south side of the fence approximately 53 feet west of the wings.

Additional airplane pieces located east of the main wreckage were a 4-foot long piece of crushed and torn wing skin was located 40 feet east of the wings, and the right main landing gear tire, which was located 231 feet east of the wings.

The airplane's propeller was removed from the impact crater and laid out for examination. The outer 12 inches of the propeller blades were broken chordwise. One blade was also broken chordwise just outside of the hub. The blades showed torsional bending, deep chordwise scrapes and scratches, and leading edge nicks. The propeller mounting bolts were sheared torsionally at the flange.

The airplane's engine was turned upright and examined. The accessory drive plate was removed. All of the accessory drive gears were intact and showed proper lubrication. The rocker box covers were removed. The rockers and valves were present and intact. The cylinders and interior of the engine case was examined. The pistons, remaining rods and lifters, camshaft, crankshaft, bearings, and case interior showed no pre-impact anomalies. The spark plugs were light gray in color and showed normal wear.

The fuel selector was recovered, examined, and tested. The fuel selector showed being at the 'BOTH" position. There were no obstructions in the selector valve or the lines.

The fuel pump and fuel flow divider were examined. Fuel was present. The smell was indicative of 100 low lead fuel.

Both airplane vacuum pumps were recovered, disassembled, and examined. The pump drives were intact. The pumps showed no evidence of pre-impact damage.

The gyros and gyro cases for from the attitude indicator and the direct gyro were examined. Both gyros and cases showed rotational scoring.


An examination of the pilot's remains was conducted on December 28, 2004, by the New Mexico State Medical Examiner at Santa Fe, New Mexico.

FAA toxicology tests of specimens taken from the pilot were negative for all tests conducted.


Parties to the investigation were the Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office, Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Cessna Aircraft Company, and Textron Lycoming.

All airplane wreckage was released and returned to the owner's insurance company on December 29, 2004.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.